Minoxidil, a widely-used drug renowned for its efficacy in regrowing hair and addressing hair loss concerns in both men and women, has been disappearing from pharmacies across the nation.
Minoxidil requires daily intake for patients to sustain the progress achieved in restoring hair growth. Indeed, there is a strong possibility of potential setbacks if the regimen is interrupted, leading to a regression in hair regrowth.
Dr. Adam Friedman, a professor and chair of dermatology at George Washington University, noticed an increased difficulty among his patients in obtaining 30-day supplies of minoxidil from pharmacies in the Washington, D.C. area. In response to this observation, Friedman and his colleagues conducted a study, reaching out to 277 pharmacies across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia to inquire about the availability of minoxidil supplies.
The findings revealed significant shortages, with only 40% of the pharmacies having the immediate capacity to fulfill 30-day prescriptions for minoxidil in doses commonly utilized for hair loss treatment (2.5 milligrams).
The cause behind this shortage remains elusive, though Friedman suggests that the drug’s heightened visibility through mainstream and social media may have triggered an upswing in prescriptions. Despite the shortage, the duration of waiting for patients to procure their medication was not explored in the survey.
Expressing concern about the potential impact of these shortages, Friedman highlighted the significance of minoxidil access for patients, emphasizing the substantial number who may face challenges in obtaining the medication due to these shortages.
Minoxidil, originally developed as a drug to treat high blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, gained attention in the 1960s when patients reported an unexpected side effect: excessive hair growth. Although the precise mechanism through which minoxidil stimulates hair growth remains unknown, doctors believe it enhances blood flow around hair follicles.
Primarily incorporated into topical hair loss treatments like Rogaine by the late 1980s, it later became evident that applying the treatment to the scalp daily was less effective than oral administration. Taken orally, minoxidil can stimulate hair growth on various parts of the body, including the chin and arms. However, the suitability of this for certain patients, particularly women, might be debatable.
Dr. Loren Krueger, an assistant professor in the dermatology department at Emory University School of Medicine, recognizes oral minoxidil as a “game changer” in hair loss treatment and restoration, emphasizing its low-risk, high-reward profile.
While minoxidil shortages may not be officially recognized by the FDA as a nationwide issue, anecdotal reports of spot shortages have emerged over the past year. Michael Ganio, senior director of pharmacy practice and quality for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, suggested that regional variations and the drug’s infrequent use in emergency health situations might contribute to varying stock levels in pharmacies. Ganio also highlighted that wholesalers should be able to restock minoxidil within days, offering reassurance to patients needing the medication urgently.
Although hair loss is not considered life-threatening, the impact on an individual’s quality of life should not be underestimated. Dr. Friedman emphasized that the disabling nature of hair loss makes it a matter of considerable importance.
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